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Iowa State Fair to go cashless in 2014

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Photo from Iowa State Fair website

The Iowa State Fair will move to a system using tickets – not cash – to pay for attractions, food and drinks at the 2014 fair.

Details still need to be finalized, but initial information about the decision to move from cash to tickets was announced online Tuesday, January 7, 2014.

Fair organizers say the new system is aimed at giving more convenience and security to fairgoers and vendors by eliminating the theft risk associated with large amounts of cash, and by eliminating time vendors spend counting cash and making the money secure.  It also is expected to eliminate time vendors spend making change, and time customers spend waiting for change.

Fairgoers will be able to purchase tickets in advance online or in person at 150 locations throughout the fairgrounds, and the tickets will have no expiration date so any unused tickets can be saved and used the next year.

Tickets will be sold in 50-cent increments.  They can be purchased with a debit or credit card, according to a report in the Des Moines Register.

“The tickets will be valid for food, beverage and attraction purchases groundswide and will be accepted everywhere except the Midway,” according to an post announcing the change on the Iowa State Fair Facebook page.

Not everyone is happy about the change.

“As the Iowa State Fair serves as a summer highlight and annual tradition for many Fairgoing families, it is understandable that changes and improvements may cause Fairgoers some apprehension,” the state fair announcement said.

Several respondents said the new system was likely to reduce impulse purchases.  Some expressed frustration with feeling as if they now have to estimate how much they will spend, concerned that they would over-purchase and be unable to redeem unused tickets or under-purchase and discover that while in line to buy food.

One responder said, “I think it is not a good idea at all. Do you really think people will stand in a line to get a ticket to stand in another line to make a purchase?”

Some have even announced they won’t go to the fair because of the change.

What do you think of using tickets instead of cash at a fair?  Tell us in the poll below.


  • Charlie

    What it boils down to is that some of the part-time help can’t count change back. Some can’t figure it in their heads. And some just assume that you gave them the correct amount without even looking at what is in their hand. I came across this at the 2013 fair. By going to a ticket only venue, the un-intelligent can just compare number-to-number for a purchase. Pepsi = 7 tickets instead of $3.50. If I give you a $5 dollar bill, what’s my change??? DUH!!!!!! You can even get this mentality at some of the local stores (WALMART- hint! hint!). But now you’re stuck hauling around a grocery bag full of tickets unless you plan on stopping at each ticket booth everytime you wish to make a purchase. Makes for an even longer, dragged out day. Where’s the enjoyment in that???

  • Sherry Todd

    The Texas State Fair went to this a few years ago. Last year I bought $80 in tickets and only used $30. The ticket system works great for the vendors and the Fair but they should have a way of refunding the cash for the tickets that you do not use.

  • steve

    Cost will go up as The state fair is just looking to make more money , if you look at how many stands are gone every year its cost thats doing the fair is about getting every dime ,, not like having animals at the fair . our state fair has the worst livestock shows and most of the barns are empty during the fair..but when you put a city person in charge that kiss’s the governors butt its all about money not what the fair is about.. Most of the buildings are run into the ground as they would like to take them down to have new built on our tax dollars.. if you look at this like the news should the last buildings built were friends and family on management and gov.. what a shame rip off our state and our kids

    • Amber

      Nothing Steve wrote makes any sense. I think tickets are a good idea. Support the fair instead of being lazy, selfish people.

  • Allen Tupker

    Cedar Rapids has an event called “BBQ Roundup”. They tried tickets for a couple years and it completely killed the event. They then went back to cash. It never really recovered. Tickets are a horible idea.

  • Llb

    Fair board fix your accounting problems – you want to kill fair attendance proceed with this proposal — Fair goers won’t stand for it!!!!

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